Air forces from nine countries, including the US, France, and Israel will take part in the annual Iniochos drill in Greece, simulating airstrikes, evading air defenses, and search and rescue ops.
In the exercise which will begin on March 28 and is scheduled to last through April 8 air forces from Canada, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Austria will also participate.
Egypt, Albania, Austria, North Macedonia, the United Kingdom, India, Kuwait, Croatia, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia will be sending observers to the drill.
According to the Hellenic Air Force, the drill is meant to simulate a variety of scenarios, including evading attacks from surface-to-air missiles, strikes on land-based targets, search and rescue, and protecting or attacking an airborne target.
Dozens of planes from each country are participating in the exercise, which is being held largely along the Greek coast and over the Mediterranean.
Iniochos drill amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The drill comes amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Channel 12 news, Israel and the other participating nations will be implementing initial lessons from the war in Europe during the exercise.
While none of the participating nations border Russia, the network said the drill would demonstrate their partnership and unity amid the possibility the war in Ukraine may spread to other countries. “It is a signal to Putin that these countries are working together to defend their sovereignty,” the report said.
The U.S., French aircraft carriers deployed off Greece
The drill also takes place while US and French naval forces, led by two aircraft carriers, have been deployed in the Aegean off Greece.
The USS Harry Truman has been conducting exercises in the northern Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea since the beginning of March and is expected to dock at Souda Bay in Crete by March 25, while the French ship Charles de Gaulle is currently south of Crete and is expected to moor at the port of Piraeus, south of Athens.
The U.S. sends tankers to Greece
Last week the U.S. confirmed it is also sending a number of KC-135 tankers to Greece. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained that the tankers would “provide additional aerial refueling support to the commander of U.S. European Command.”
These tankers could, for instance, enable a land-launched F-35A to double its combat radius, an article in the National Interest explains.
The presence of range-extending tankers means that U.S. and NATO attack aircraft would not need to be positioned further than Germany to operate in Ukrainian airspace. This would make enemy forces operating in Eastern Europe much more vulnerable to U.S. and NATO air attacks, should that somehow become necessary, it adds.